Friday, October 12, 2012

How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste: Part 2 of 2


In the Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to the basic lean principles and the three (3) major categories of waste and the seven (7) wastes. Today, we will look at how one organization successfully was able to implement lean and identify some of these categories of waste. Set production in the photo studio has multiple sub processes, but for the purposes of this blog post, I will illustrate the painting process. A photography studio for a large retailer is a very fast paced environment with many moving parts and lots of people and equipment involved. Multiple activities are occurring in parallel and it is almost is like a fine tuned orchestra.

The roles that you will find most commonly across many studios are:

·         photographers

·         art directors

·         photo assistants & lead assistant

·         lighting technicians

·         digital technicians

·         studio managers

·         models

·         hair & makeup artists

·         project managers.

There is a lot of workflow, many pieces of equipment and numerous processes. Everyone seems to understand what their role is, and how they work together to produce the end result. It is just amazing for an outsider looking inside.


The areas of improvement that the photography studio management wanted to focus on were:

i) efficiency in resource (people & equipment) utilization

ii) increase production capacity and

iii) avoid costly rework. In a photography studio, rework usually means a re-shoot or re-do of a photo shoot, which has a huge domino effect on multiple processes and a huge one is always cost.

iv)lack of consistency in process understanding

 Once the above areas were identified, the process areas responsible began their lean journey to address them. The following were some of the lean tools and how they were utilized in this scenario:

1) Value Stream Mapping: As a first step, the process owners for each of the processes were identified and documented. A value stream mapping workshop was facilitated under the guidance of a Black Belt for the process owners to understand how each of their processes pushed and pulled from one another. The value stream mapping also helped to eliminate any non-value added steps.

2) 5S: The next step was to use 5S to organize the work areas. The results from this tool were almost immediate.

 3)Identify & Eliminate Muda: Once this exercise was complete, the process owners were able to go back to their areas and identify the waste. As a result of this exercise the painting process owner was able to identify the following areas of waste in the photo studio:

a)Rework: a set that has been painted in the wrong color, lighting is incorrect due to lack of a diagram, lack of instructions to the photographer on the look for photo shoot, a product shot on the wrong background, and differing perceptions on final look by art directors.

b)Over processing: retouching an look or image more than required, gold plating, and over planning a photo shoot

c)Overproduction: doing multiple photo shoots with multiple looks that might not always be needed or required, done for insurance in case it may be needed, maximizing on the availability of a high-end model that might not be available to come back for a re-shoot, etc.

d)Waiting: lots of time lost waiting for a process to complete, people waiting for other people or people waiting on equipment

e) Motion: Photographers having to move (walk) to various photo "bays" for shoots that are not necessarily close by or props that are not readily available on the current photo set. Equipment that has to be moved from one bay to the next for subsequent photo shoots.

f)Inventory: Backgrounds for photo sets, paint, props, accessories, and other camera equipment that might be used just for one photo shoot.

4) Muri: People that were not required to be present at meetings, unnecessary overtime, lack of creativity

The next step for this group is to address the above areas by applying some of the tools available and track their progress. Currently the leadership team has adopted a daily morning team Gemba walk that helps them check on the progress and study areas for further improvement. 

I shall continue to remain in touch with the process owners at this organization to learn about their progress on their lean journey. If you have any comments or questions on this article, please leave them in the comments section below or feel free to email me.

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